It’s been a little over two years since the tragic killing of Terence Crutcher and the Crutcher family is still going strong in their pursuit of justice, police reform and a more equitable community in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
What we know is that Terence Crutcher’s civil rights were violated under the color of law and the then Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby who shot him was acquitted on all charges and now teaching classes to law enforcement agencies nationwide.
What we don’t know is that Terence’s twin sister, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher’s civil rights were also violated by officers of the court and she feels like it’s her duty as a civil rights advocate to inform her community of the injustices that are being perpetuated not just in the streets but in the court of law in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well.
When Terence Crutcher was killed hundreds of people reached out to Dr. Crutcher personally after seeing her on CNN and MSNBC and hearing her on the Steve Harvey Morning Show to see how they could assist in her quest for justice in the murder of her twin. She was advised to set up a GoFundMe account to assist with her efforts. Dr. Crutcher’s legal team had connections to many donors who consistently gave to causes such as police brutality. After much hesitancy and even saying no to the idea of setting up a GoFundMe account, people kept calling Dr. Crutcher with the desire to help monetarily. In the meantime, people started to exploit Terence’s death by pretending to be members of the Crutcher family and they started setting up fraudulent GoFundMe accounts and collecting funds. After much consideration, Dr. Crutcher decided to finally open up an account of her own only under two conditions: 1) That the money raised be used to help Dr. Crutcher fight for justice; and 2) That the money raised assist Dr. Crutcher and her parents with Terence’s four children. Minutes after Dr. Crutcher set up the account and her authenticity was verified, GoFundMe shut down all other fraudulent accounts. Thousands of dollars started to pour in from Dr. Crutcher’s friends, colleagues, and strangers from all over the United States because she had made an impact on the nation by showing the world how to deal with tragedy with grace and dignity by simply asking for peaceful protest before the disturbing video of Terence’s killing was released to the world. Dr. Crutcher knew that her brother’s death at the hands of a police officer would cause civil unrest.
“Unfortunately, after the fake accounts were shut down the exploitation didn’t stop. The people and profession I thought would do no harm caused additional pain and suffering thus adding salt to an already open wound. I’m referring to judges, court appointed attorneys, and lawyers who are supposed to treat people fair and protect their civil rights. To make a long story short, I ended up being accused of stealing money from my twin brother’s estate that I didn’t know existed. An estate that was set up under false and illegal pretenses to begin with. I was ordered by a judge to transfer all monies that was collected on my behalf by GoFundMe to the court. In a court proceeding, this same judge admitted on record he knew nothing about GoFundMe and stated that I could provide an accounting of all funds collected by me to ensure I hadn’t taken anything. At this point, I was confused, embarrassed, and humiliated. I had been badgered on a witness stand as to where the GoFundMe money was and questioned as to how I could pay for 26 hotel rooms in downtown Tulsa during the week of my brother’s funeral, as if black people couldn’t afford nice things. The judge then appointed lawyers to oversee Terence’s estate and his children as if my parents and I were unfit to oversee the business of my brother’s affairs. One of the attorneys the judge appointed was Chris Brecht, who is now running for District Judge, Seat 9. When I first learned of Mr. Brecht running to be a judge, it disturbed me tremendously. In a recent article published by the Black Wall Street Times, Chris Brecht stated in part, “I believe that every person that enters a court room should be treated fairly.” He also stated, “My greatest hope is that every person I preside over will know that they were treated with respect, dignity and fairness, regardless of the outcome of their case.” Chris Brecht’s statements are quite the opposite of his actions and treatment towards my family, our children and my attorney. He continues to push a narrative that his priority is to protect the Terence’s kids from being exploited, but filed a bill for approximately $20,000 dollars after only visiting with three of Terence’s four children. He met with the kids on no more than three to four different occasions for a total of 45 minutes to one hour each session. One of the kids Mr. Brecht never met for an entire year, but claimed to represent them. He ended up fighting my family as a court appointed attorney over his attorney fees and own self-interest more rigorously than he did for our children. At one point throughout this nightmare, Mr. Brecht stated to my dad, he didn’t know why he was needed after the common law matter was settled, however, he continued to represent the kids per the judges request and run up excessive bills in hopes that it would come from GoFundMe dollars: Money that was raised not to pay him but to help fight for justice for the wrongful death of my brother and to benefit my nieces and nephew.
After sitting back and not speaking out about this pain and humiliation for nearly two years, I just couldn’t let it go. I told my family that we had to fight this. The lawyers and judge kept advising me to keep it quiet and out of the media. I kept hoping that everything would work out and that I would be exonerated for allegedly stealing my own money. I prayed that I would get due process and it never happened. I had to hire my own attorney to fight for my constitutional right to due process, fight for my reputation, fight for my family, and most importantly fight for my right to speak out. I could no longer remain silent about what was happening to my family within the legal system in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Several local attorneys, judges, and our community stated that what was happening to my family was absolutely atrocious. Everywhere we go in town, someone we don’t even know, stops us to say that they are praying for us and that we shouldn’t be going through the added stress. My parents wrote a letter to the judge stating that they no longer wanted Chris Brecht representing our kids and nothing was done. After months of hoping that the court would do the right thing, I decided to ask the judge to recuse himself off of our case due to his bias against my family and because lawyers like Chris Brecht who persists in causing my family unnecessary pain and suffering amidst the killing of our loved one.
Fast forward, my request for the judge to recuse was denied and so I decided to keep fighting and take my case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. My case was argued on October 22, 2018, and to our surprise, Chris Brecht was representing the very judge who appointed him to represent the kids and the very judge who he is requesting fees to be paid. After witnessing over two years of corruption within our law enforcement with my brother’s murder and two years of corruption within the legal and judicial system, my purpose was clarified and had been further validated. How many black families go through what we are going through? How many lawyers are exploiting black families after the loss of a love one only for financial gain?
The 2nd Annual Memorial Gala hosted by the Terence Crutcher Foundation was themed, “Make Them Hear You.” The message that everyone walked away with was; “Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting and someone has to speak when other people are quiet.”
Today, I decided to free myself from the opinions of people and speak out in hopes that this letter would send a strong message to the judges and attorneys who feel that they can exploit black grieving families. I feel that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and this is why I unequivocally oppose Chris Brecht as a District Judge. My community deserves better.